St. Louis Sues Missouri Over New Gun Law

This is big. Not long ago the state of Missouri passed a “Second Amendment Preservation Act” that nullfies any federal law that the state decides violates the 2nd Amendment, which would probably be just about anything. Now St. Louis city and county are suing to block implementation of the law.

The county and city say the law is confusing and would prevent state and local cops from working with federal law enforcement. There are ongoing joint federal-city task forces at work addressing the gun violence problem, and the wording of the bill complicates that work. Can federal officers such as ATF agents operate in Missouri at all? It’s not clear. Someone on the television news last night said that the law would not stop federal agents from enforcing state law, but they couldn’t enforce federal law.

From KSDK, St. Louis:

The law would subject law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce federal gun laws to a fine of about $50,000 per violating officer. It also states that any federal laws, executive orders or other federal regulations to track or take away firearms from law-abiding citizens will be considered void in Missouri, the Associated Press reported.

From today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The law prevents local or state police agencies from enforcing federal laws deemed unconstitutional. It subjects agencies to a $50,000 fine if an officer violates the law. The same fine applies if an agency hires an officer who previously violated the Missouri law as a federal agent.

Critics have said the law will negatively affect working relationships with the federal government, including on anti-crime task forces. They also say the law will effectively defund the police by subjecting them to the fines.

States cannot nullify federal law. This was a matter settled back in 1832, during the Andy Jackson administration, you might recall. But note:

[Govenor] Parson and [Attorney General] Schmitt argued that Missouri “is not attempting to nullify federal law” but was instead “defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe on Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms.”

Yeah, that makes no sense at all. I haven’t been able to find the text of the bill online, but one of the sponsors says “The Second Amendment Preservation Act declares all federal laws, rules, orders or other actions which restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership and use of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition exclusively in Missouri will not be enforced by state law enforcement, state municipal officials and other state officials.” How is that not nullification? Especially if federal law enforcement isn’t allowed to enforce federal law, either?

See also the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, second paragraph.

In 2017 the state eliminated any restriction on carrying firearms. You don’t even need a permit. We’ve got “stand your ground” and the works here now. After that law went into effect in January 2018, the rate of gun violence in the state shot up. Since then St. Louis has become a shooting gallery. Every single blasted day there are news stories about gun fights or drive by shootings or what not. Even small children get killed.

One would think that any judge knows enough law to see how blatantly unconstitutional the “protection act” is.  But now the bench has been stocked with inconpetent Trump judges. So who knows?

See also Red State, Blue City.

 

 

Kyrsten Sinema vs. Reality

Today is the day Senate Republicans will block debate on the voting rights bill so that it cannot be voted on and become law. I don’t think this has happened yet as I write this, but there is no question it will happen.

Yesterday Kyrsten Sinema published an op ed in the Washington Post argung that preserving the filibuster/60 vote cloture rule is more important than voting rights or the environment or anything else. Well, that’s not her argument, but that’s what her argument boils down to.

We cannot end the 60-vote cloture rule, she says, because even if end it to protect democracy, some future majority in Congress might be able to pass bad legislation that ends democracy over the objections of a minority. But as Greg Sargent’s points out, that’s already happening in the states. “In short, the rules of political competition are already being rewritten by one party all over the country, with an eye toward entrenching partisan advantage and minority rule,” he writes.

I had been thinking that Sinema is like someone whose house is burning down but who doesn’t call the fire department because water hoses might damage the furniture. But maybe she’s more like someone whose house is burning down and she rushes in to save the house keys. If the house burns down, nobody needs the keys. If we can’t stop the takeover of democracy in the states, in years to come nobody is going to care about the damn filibuster.

Sinema wrote in her op ed:

“To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to expand health-care access or retirement benefits: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to later see that legislation replaced by legislation dividing Medicaid into block grants, slashing earned Social Security and Medicare benefits, or defunding women’s reproductive health services?”

See Jonathan Chait, Kyrsten Sinema’s Filibuster Defense Is Factually Untrue. Chait points out that a Republican majority in Congress could bypass the 60-vote cloture and pass most such legislation — Social Security is an exception — through budget reconciliation already. The only thing that has stopped Republicans from making the rest of those changes when they’ve had the majority is that those programs are very popular, and touching them is a serious political risk. Chait continues,

The federal government is filled with functions that the modern version of the Republican Party would never agree to create. The 1970 Clean Air Act, creating the Environmental Protection Agency, passed both chambers by a cumulative vote of 447-1, an unimaginable outcome today. And yet those programs and agencies generally earn broad public support and prove impossible to uproot.

A system in which both parties can advance their popular beliefs when they have control of government therefore benefits Democrats disproportionately. Republicans may have some measures they could pass in the absence of a filibuster but not otherwise, yet over the long run, Democrats have far more. That is why, when they controlled government, Republicans frankly confessed that filibuster was “what’s prevented our country for decades from sliding toward liberalism.”

If Republicans have policies they can pass with majorities in both chambers, then they should pass them. If those policies attract broad public legitimacy, they will stay in place. If they are as repellant as Sinema fears, they will be repealed when Democrats have their turn in power. There’s simply no reason why preventing Republicans from trying out their preferred policies is so vital that it justifies handicapping Democrats in the same fashion.

So while it’s true both parties have used the filibuster to block the other party, in effect the rule has hurt Democrats far more than Republicans and has been used to block needed law much more than to block bad law. Instead of eliminating the rule, sinema wants people to “change their behavior.” What incentive is there for Republicans to do that? The rule works great for them as it is.

But this seems too obvious. Why can’t Sinema see this? Is she stupid or corrupt? Could be both, I suppose.